During the 2008 presidential campaign in the USA, one candidate ran on the slogan of “Hope and Change.” Since his election and now almost eight years later, most people feel there is no hope and things have only changed for the worse.
There is a physiological effect that happens to people when they lose hope. I read a story several years ago about two people lost in the wilderness in winter time. The difference between the one who died and the one who survived was that the survivor never gave up hope.
Once hope is gone, a sinking feeling of despair sets in, which might even lead to losing the will to live.
In 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, the apostle Paul lists the many things he had to suffer through:
“Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness—besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.”
Just what was it that drove him in the sense that he would endure all this hardship without throwing in the towel? He gives us the answer in the book of Acts:
“Why should it be thought incredible by you that God raises the dead?” (Acts 26:8).
“I have hope in God, which they themselves also accept, that there will be a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and the unjust” (Act 24:15).
“But when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, ‘Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee; concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!’” (Act 23:6).
Notice, Paul had hope in God that there would be a resurrection of the just, and it is clear that that hope drove him on to endure his suffering. It also gave him focus and vision to endure to the end.
It clearly states in the Scriptures that there is a persecution of the saints coming, including martyrdom (Revelation 12:17; Matthew 24:9). These are sobering prospects which we must not deny. Some will be saved from persecution and martyrdom, while others will have to go through them (Revelation 12:6, 14).
What will make the difference in being able to endure whatever God decides is best for us to make it into His Family? It is to never lose hope and to keep our focus and vision on the hope of the resurrection.
We must never give up that hope! It will carry us through tough times and enable us to stand before the Son of Man in the Kingdom of God.